Is it really a list if it only has one item on it? Yes. Because if you don’t write it down you won’t do it. Good advice my aunt gave me when I was a child, and I’ve stuck by it ever since.
For me, lists keep the world sane, spinning on its axis in an orderly, predictable way. They help one make sense of an often too loud, too noisy, too angry, too hurtful, too in-one’s-face world. They remind one, so one doesn’t forget. They encourage one, so one doesn’t give up. Most importantly, they ensure one doesn’t make mistakes.
‘To Do’ Lists are especially wonderful. Often, I’ll put things on those lists just so I can tick them as done. It’s an almost euphoric feeling, seeing things ticked off on a list. It gives one such a sense of accomplishment. Especially if it’s something one doesn’t normally do. Like buy a
Men seem to think that a grocery shopping list will stop a woman from buying things she doesn’t really need. Whereas women intuitively know a grocery list is merely one with suggestions, which happens to include essentials. Once inside a store, the list is merely a way of sparking ideas, desires, that the soul, or the flesh, only realises they need when they get there. It’s an unconscious reminder of something lurking on the fringes of one’s mind, whose acquisition is more than just essential. Like
Some people have lists of their lists. I may end up doing that this time as I have to be sure I cover everything. That I leave no stone unturned. Or rather, no stone put back when I’m finished. There’s one thing I will have on every list, even though now I’m not quite sure how to accomplish it. But every list has to be completed and then utterly destroyed.
This list isn’t one of those flippant ones written on the back of an envelope as one is rushing out the door. You know the type. Oh, I’m off to the hairdresser so I’ll pop into the library and get some milk on my way home. Before you know it, you’re getting bread as well. I mean, who doesn’t always write bread before or after writing milk? Then there’s ‘something for dinner’ which could be an entire basketful of food stuffs. And, even though every time one makes a meal, one realises one needs new kitchen equipment - it never makes it onto the list. Things like a
I remember the very first list I ever wrote. It was a book list. My aunt had finally decided it was time for me to become a member of the library. I must have been about four. Although I’d been reading on my own since I was three, penmanship hadn’t quite caught up with one’s reading skills. Naturally, my list was only legible to me. The green crayon scribbles were more a description of emotions I wanted to discover than actual book titles. After all, all the books I knew about were already in my small, white bookcase, decorated with faded paintings of twisted, purple wisteria. I was so excited the night my aunt told me, I couldn’t sleep. Not that my aunt would have given them to me, but it would have been a good night for some
Most people write very few lists. Groceries, Christmas presents that kind of thing. And they‘re surprised, and annoyed, with themselves, and each other, when things are forgotten. Like tape. It’s almost impossible to wrap presents if there’s no tape, yet you’ll hardly ever find it on a Christmas present list. That’s why I’m making sure this list has as many accompanying ones as necessary. Clearly and carefully numbered so that I know how many there are.
I’ve been writing lists all my life. They help one think. They inspire, yes, that’s the right word, they inspire one. They become, I was going to say my conscience, but that’s definitely the wrong word. They become one’s muse? Perhaps. Although that’s not right either. As I’m writing my lists I discover things I hadn’t thought of. Essential things. Putting them on the list sparks new ones around that item alone. I mean, if one simply put ‘car’ on the list that wouldn’t really tell one everything, would it? Without a detailed list regarding the car one might find one’s self running out of petrol at a very inconvenient time. Which is why I must remember to
Put gas in the car on Thursday
If one is going to do something out of the ordinary, lists help establish a memorable routine in one’s life. I remember my grandfather’s immovable habit of winding the clocks every day. Without fail, when the long clock struck six, he would take out his ancient pocket watch, adjust it and wind it up, staring at it until the chimes had stopped.
“Right,” he would say, snapping shut the watch’s cover. Starting with the black grandfather clock in the hall, he would methodically work his way round the entire house, winding each and every clock, dusting them and checking their delicate working parts as he did so. There were never healthier clocks in the world than ours. He would finish with the dining room clock, pushing it back into place just as dinner was announced.
It was a ritual that served him well. Between the hour of six and seven in the evening, everyone always knew where Grandfather was.
There are other ways of doing that nowadays and there’s one engagement, between the hour of six and seven in the evening, on Thursday, that I have to keep. It’s something we’ve done for a year now. It’s a habit. An enjoyable one and no one forgets. Even the waiters know us each by name. Obviously, I chose Grandfather’s favourite time of day as it’s easy for me to remember. It’s ingrained into my psyche. It’s the one thing I don’t have to put on the list. I will though, just to be on the safe side. After all, one doesn’t want to go to all this trouble and not
Meet Sarah and Jake for dinner, Thursday, 6pm, The Grill.
If I hadn’t begun this list at the beginning I may not have planned carefully enough. Lists help one start a project and finish it. Finish well, as they say. Which is why the second list included learning to sail and scuba dive. They were hobbies I took up at least two years’ ago. Dan doesn’t like sailing as much as I do, but the occasional mid-week, overnight jaunt suits us both.
We take the long drive out on Thursday evening, after work and dinner with Sarah and Jake, mess about on the lake for a bit and then anchor and let the water flow by as we sip chilled wine and eat potted shrimp and salad. We make our way back in the morning while the ducks are just waking and the mist is still quietly curling gently up from the water leaving the lake’s surface tranquil and undisturbed.
The grizzled, old man we hire the boat from, Frank Macklin, is sweet. We always have to sign in and out in order to hire the boat, and we inevitably have a little chat with him. He’s a drunk and utterly predictable. Perfect, in fact. Which is why this time, I must remember to
Tell Frank, Dan is meeting me there, and later, that he hadn’t arrived.
Which reminds me – see how inspirational lists are – that I must remember to
Program my mobile
It’s essential Sarah and Jake see, and hear, Dan calling me and telling me, “I’m working late and will meet you at the lake tonight.”
I find, when confronted with a list someone else has compiled, one will often choose items at random. Probably not the most logical or the most efficient way of doing things, but one has an innate objection to being told what to do. My aunt has often commented on this. Cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face she calls it. Perhaps, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that whatever I do, I do because I choose to, not because I’m merely following orders.
Things on the list may not be strictly in order of importance. Lists are often like that. There are though, some items on this one that will be followed meticulously. This list is the only one that really matters, the one I mentioned earlier. The short one. The first one. When everything’s in place, the timing’s perfect and nothing has been left to chance, then I’ll
Kill my husband.